Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Potent Neighbour

Life on ancient Mars?

Rock deposited in Gale Crater, near the landing site of the Mars.

Rock deposited in Gale Crater, near the landing site of the Mars.

Washington  Microbial life could have thrived on Mars billions of years ago, researchers from NASA’s Curiosity mission reported March 12. An analysis of the rover’s first drill sample on the Red Planet revealed a nonacidic, slightly salty aquatic environment with plenty of energy-rich minerals. There is no evidence of past life, the researchers said, but the sample revealed the most hospitable environment ever detected beyond Earth.
“We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it,” said Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech.
Curiosity has been very busy since its arrival on Mars last August. It landed in Gale Crater with plans to explore Mount Sharp, the 5-kilometer-high mountain at the crater’s center. But early in Curiosity’s adventures the rover encountered the remains of what appears to be an ancient stream emptying into a lake.
That region, called Yellowknife Bay, is where researchers decided to drill into a rock  the first time that has ever been done on another planet.

Source: Science  News